Housing help for those that need it

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From Mr Frank Allaun

Sir: "The idea that everyone should own their own house is neither achievable nor desirable," declares your editorial (28 June), and it continues, rightly, to reject the Government's worthless proposal to allocate housing in a way to suit respectable married couples at the expense of single persons.

Private landlords' housing has been in decline ever since 1945. The government's census for 1991 (the latest available) shows that 52.7 per cent in Britain are owner-occupiers; 35.2 per cent are council tenants; 5.4 per cent are housing association tenants; and only 6.7 per cent are privately rented.

The truth is that a large proportion of the population cannot afford, or does not want, to become owner-occupiers; and among them are those most in need of immediate housing help., This should be provided by removing the government's ban on local authorities using the pounds 5.6 billion lying idle in their council coffers, and allowing, indeed encouraging, them to spend this money and the available workers and building materials on council house construction instead. It would also provide thousands of jobs in the building, furniture, bathroom equipment and other related industries. It is part of Labour's election programme.

However, I strongly disagree with your conclusion: that the central problem in housing policy is the lack of a vigorous private rented sector. No, the local authorities and housing associations can do the job far better, more efficiently and cheaply, with better planning and with greater care for their tenants and the desperate queues on the long waiting lists.

Yours faithfully,

Frank Allaun

Manchester

28 June

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